The Nature Conservancy Discovers Large Population of Orangutans in Borneo

The world's orangutan population is in terminal decline. The Southeast Asian
islands of Sumatra and Borneo are the only two places in the world where
orangutans can presently be found in the wild. Despite their officially
protected status, the threats of uncontrolled logging, illegal poaching and
environmental degradation place the future of orangutans in serious peril.
Unless the current trend is reversed, wild orangutans will be extinct by the
year 2020.

To address the threats to the forest habitat upon which orangutans depend
for their survival, The Nature Conservancy initiated a program on the
Indonesian held territory of the island of Borneo. As an early step in
orangutan conservation, surveys were planned for densely forested areas
found in the province of East Kalimantan. Little research had previously
been conducted in these isolated areas, and that which had been done
indicated that the wild orangutan population had been nearly hunted out of

Searching for these elusive great apes, team leaders Linda Engstrom and
Bhayu Pamungkas recruited and trained local villagers, including a number of
indigenous and forest-dependent Punan Dayaks. The Nature Conservancy team
then began carefully surveying the remote and difficult lowland forest
terrain found in the East Kalimantan regencies of Berau and East Kutai.

After enduring nearly four rigorous months in the forest, the survey team
was rewarded for its efforts by the identification of a large population of
orangutans, the extent of which was not previously known to exist. Around
1,600 nests were counted - which serves as evidence of at least 1,000
orangutans residing within a 345,000 acre area. This find represents a
population drastically larger than anyone previously thought feasible and
could correspond to up to 10% of the world's estimated remaining wild
orangutan population.

"This group could be one of the three largest populations in the world,"
says Engstrom.

What the Nature Conservancy is Doing:
To protect threatened orangutan habitat, The Nature Conservancy is
facilitating the development and implementation of a locally derived model
for collaborative management that will create incentives necessary to gain
support from forest-dependent communities, forest industry and local and
provincial government. This program not only intends to protect orangutans,
but also to maintain a healthy ecosystem that will benefit other rare and
endangered animals.